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Algerians continue fight for justice for victims of the Black Decade

Military deployed in the streets of Algiers during the civil war in 1992 [Saber68/Wikipedia]

The collective of the families of the disappeared in Algeria (CFDA) and SOS Disparu launched the "Days against forgetting" campaign this week to mark the 12th anniversary of the National Reconciliation charter deal that ended the 1990's civil war.

The campaign marked a week of meetings in which the families of the disappeared called for justice for their loved ones who disappeared during the civil war.

At a press conference held this week at the headquarters of the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS) in Algiers, CDFA spokesperson Nacera Dutour, President of the Djazairouna Association Cherifa Kheddar, founding member of the collective SOS Disparus, Hacene Ferhati, and a mother of a missing person, Fatma-Zohra Boucherf, met to call on the Algerian government to do more to unveil the extent of the disappearances during the Black Decade and to highlight the threats against the victims who have campaigned tirelessly for the truth.

"We have faced several amnesties during the black decade and we continue to suffer the consequences," Dutour explained citing the Reconciliation Charter decreed in 1995 by President Liamine Zeroual which was the foundation for the referendum of the Civil Concord in 1999 and the Charter in 2005 both initiated by current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Press conference to mark the the 12th anniversary of the National Reconciliation charter deal that ended the 1990's civil war [Pinterest]

Boucherf affirmed Dutour's comments on the Charter adding that it "advocates the forgetting and the silence of the victims".

In 2007, this Charter amnestied even the agents of the State guilty of crimes and violations of the Human rights.

According to Boucherf, whose son has been missing for the last 25 years, the "Charter asks us to forget our children and turn the page" as "President Bouteflika wished in 1999, when he declared that our children were not in his pockets."

The criticism of the Civil Concord is mainly driven by its foundation which prioritises "impunity and forgetting" as oppose to coming to terms with the atrocities committed during the war and bringing those complicit to justice. Article 46 of the Concord which "threatens to imprison the victims who refuse to remain silent" is what the collective have been campaigning against in getting closer to knowing what happened during the war.

"We want to know what happened, how we got there, why an Algerian killed an Algerian, why did government agents kidnap Algerians. They are asking us to turn the page but every Algerian has the right to know its history," Boucherf concluded.

Kheddar added that not only are the victims of terrorism and enforced disappearances ignored but also condemned to prison in punishment for their demands. "Apparently, all those who have not carried weapons or committed crime cannot benefit from this Charter," she said.

The civil war began after democratic elections in the country were cancelled by the army after it became apparent that the Islamic Salvation Front would win a majority.

It would last ten brutal years, with depraved levels of violence recorded towards the latter part by both the military and secret services and militant groups guilty of senseless violence and massacres.

Around 200,000 Algerians would perish in the war, 18,000 would disappear and one million forced to leave the country.  The Concord and subsequent Charter would allow for many government agents to walk free due to the offered impunity which meant that no one was brought to justice over the atrocities in a desperate attempt to move on from the damaging war.

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Kheddar renewed calls to propose an alternative charter to integrate new demands but the calls have remained unanswered by Algerian authorities. The National Charter Commission on the National Reconciliation has also not taken on the victims' demands.

"Twelve years later, we are unaware of what this commission has become, what it has done, if it has contacted the victims," she continued.

The government's recent decision to broadcast graphic images and videos from the civil war for the first time on Algerian TV has been viewed as a scare tactic by the victims in keeping them silent. "They will strike us, beat us or scare us," Boucherf said, because they are "afraid of the truth".

As the country takes a turn for the worst due to its current economic woes and the government attempts to ease in reforms, public assurances in the government is running low.

By broadcasting images from the civil war the government hopes to remind Algerians of the face of terrorism and how placing their hopes in an alternative is likely to force the country into the same type of violence during the Black Decade.

One of the founding members of SOS Disparus also reiterated how the figures put forward in the past by Mustapha Farouk Ksentini, the former president of the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH), have been much lower than the numbers of victims who have come forward, adding to the authority's culpability in not adequately investigating the disappearances.

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